We have arrived at the Zero Hour of season three of Star Wars Rebels as it were, with a TON of buildup as Grand Admiral Thrawn is closing in on the heroes of not only Phoenix Squadron but also the traitor in his midst. Did everyone’s favorite blue-skinned Grand Admiral finally bring the heat to the Rebels? Did Kallus get busted? Did anyone die?!?! Yeah, big stuff to discuss, but before I get too deep check out the episode of The Exhaust Port podcast Sequoyah and I did that dives super deep into season three of Rebels and beyond. It’s pretty damn good, if I do say so myself…. So the usual, ***SPOILERS*** abound after the image, let’s get to it.
So we begin Zero Hour on Lothal, where we have been led to believe all season long a HUGE battle would be taking place. In the opening minutes Thrawn tricks our favorite double-agent, Kallus, into giving Phoenix Squadron false intel and follows him to his point of broadcast, which happens to be Ezra’s old tower-home. A fight ensues but Thrawn and his battalion of Death Troopers (you read that right, but don’t get too excited..) easily subdue Kallus and take him prisoner. Once back at the base Thrawn simply cross-references the trajectory of Kallus’ message and the route Jan Dodonna’s Rebel cell is taking to meet up with Phoenix Squadron and quickly pinpoints their location. Even though the Atollon system was removed from his star map he uses art to deduce the location of Chopper Base anyway…
While Phoenix Squadron and Dodonna’s Massassi group are plotting their plan to combat the Imperials on Lothal, they receive part of Kallus’ message, and later a direct message from Thrawn himself, essentially informing them he will be attacking Chopper Base on Atollon, finally. What ensues is a very well planned attack, as you would expect from the Grand Admiral, complete with two Interdictor Cruisers to ensure there is no escape for the Rebels.
Hera decides to send Ezra to rendezvous with Mon Mothma (presumably on Dantooine, although it’s never stated, or maybe it’s Yavin 4 — see below) for help, but once he finally gets through the Interdictor blockade she declines, explaining they simply can’t risk the entire Rebel Alliance fleet to help them. Speaking of the Interdictors and the blockade, we did get a sacrificial death – Commander Sato sacrificed himself and crashed the Quasar Carrier Cruiser right into one of the Interdictors, after Admiral Konstantine makes a predictably stupid decision – against Thrawn’s command. He dies too, thankfully….
Ezra, aboard Maul’s Nightbrother starfighter (he doesn’t need it, so it’s good to see it still getting use on the show…), decides that Sabine and Clan Wren are their only hope. He and Chopper travel to Krownest and are at first shut down, but after hearing his plea, Ursa Wren decides to send Sabine and what ships they can spare to help Phoenix Squadron.
Back on Atollon Kanan rushes to the Bendu to try and enlist his help. Of course, this doesn’t go well, as the Bendu is always in the middle. He gets more pissed off at Kanan than anything (more on this to come). Luckily for the Rebels, the shield generator that Sabine and Zeb procured on Geonosis works well enough, as Thrawn bombards the base with heavy fire from the Star Destroyers above the planet. Just as the shields begin the give way, Thrawn calls off the attack and begins a surface invasion.
The Rebels realize they have no chance to survive and are trying to figure out a way to escape when Ezra, Sabine, and the Mandalorians show up and take out the second Interdictor – in cool fashion I might add. And then we have the Bendu – a VERY pissed off Bendu who has manifested himself as a Force storm, striking at whatever and whoever he wishes. During this and the ensuing confusion the Ghost makes it’s escape with Dodonna and his ground crew in tow, jumping into hyperspace (but not before scooping up Kallus in an escape pod) whilst leaving Thrawn to deal with the Bendu. Seemingly defeated, the Bendu taunts Thrawn with information on his own demise, then quickly vanishes. Not the last we’ve seen of the Bendu, I’d wager. And let’s not pull any punches here, the Rebels were beaten and beaten soundly by Thrawn, and were very lucky to live, although their fleet took HEAVY, heavy losses. Like, really heavy.
Overall it was a good, not great, finale to a very strong season overall. Let’s get to it…
What I liked:
- Grand Admiral Thrawn – with the small exception of the way he deduced where Atollon and Phoenix Squadron were, this was Thrawn at his best. As I mentioned on the Rebels wrap-up podcast, Timothy Zahn must be thrilled at how the story group has portrayed Thrawn thus far. Incredibly true to his Legends iteration, and we finally got to see him kick some ass. Kanan’s comment of ‘I think he actually wants to kill us this time’ was funny and on point. In the end, he was only undone by the idiocy of Admiral Konstantine and the out-of-nowhere appearance of the Bendu. And speaking of the Bendu, the first shadow of doubt that we’ve seen in Thrawn’s eyes crept in when the Bendu spoke of his fate. A great Rebels moment, indeed.
- The Bendu – I can imagine this is gonna be hit-or-miss for many fans, but I loved the role the Bendu played in Zero Hour. I was shocked when Kanan approached him for help, and was REALLY hoping the writers wouldn’t bail the Rebels (and Kanan) out by forcing the Bendu to take sides with the ‘good guys’. Well, he definitely did not take sides and pretty much said ‘GET THE F@CK OFF MY LAWN, ALL OF YOU!!’. And it was awesome. He manifested himself as a Force Storm (first time we’ve seen one in canon, I believe) and wrecked anything and everything in his path. However, his appearance did allow the Rebels to escape, but it was well orchestrated by the writers and creators, at least in my opinion. Thrawn’s line of ‘what kind of Jedi trickery is this’ was awesome as well, and showed that he doesn’t have an understanding of the Force, much like the majority of the population in the Star Wars universe. And his cryptic message and warning to the Grand Admiral at the end was ominous and amazing. I am positive we will see more of the Bendu moving forward, and I can’t wait.
- Commander Sato’s sacrifice – look, I’m not a huge fan of Commander Sato, and I think he sucks as a leader. But if he was gonna go, the writers sent him off with an amazing exit. Reminiscent of the Hammerhead Corvette’s sacrifice in Rogue One, he piloted the Phoenix Nest right into Admiral Konstantine’s Interdictor Cruiser, disabling it so Ezra could escape for help. So long Sato, and thank you for the effort! And let’s hope Hera gets promoted to General now!
- Epic space battle – finally, we get a great space battle in Rebels. I still wouldn’t put it up against the epic space fighting the Clone Wars, but it was strong, very strong. The animation team did a great job and there was a ton going on. Thumbs way up on that.
- Hera and Kanan – nothing major, but I love it when they show how much they love each other. Rebels has done a great job dealing with their relationship, and although it’s pretty much obvious they’re a couple, it’s well executed.
- Mon Mothma – it was great how she denied Ezra’s plea for help, understanding that there is a larger war coming and they can’t sacrifice their entire fleet during this battle, even though it sucks for Phoenix Squadron and the Massassi group, fronted by General Dodonna. Speaking of…
- Dodonna and the Massassi – I wouldn’t say I really loved the inclusion of iconic Rebel general Jan Dodonna in this episode, but it was very cool to hear that he leads the ‘Massassi’ group, which ties directly back to the Rebel base on Yavin 4.
What could’ve been better:
- Kallus – I like Kallus, like a lot. And I don’t mind his joining the Rebels as we move into season four. But he should’ve died, right? I really hope they have something planned for him that makes all this worthwhile. His new hair was sexy, tho..
- Death Troopers – ugh, what a waste. They were pretty much there to say ‘look at the cool Death Troopers’ They didn’t even speak!! Why?? Why!! Ugh. Anyways, maybe next season
- No Dantooine? – so we are skipping Dantooine altogether and reuniting with the newly formed Rebel Alliance on Yavin 4? Didn’t the various cells just come together at Dantooine?? Bummer, but I do hope we finally get to see Dantooine in canon. We deserve it, and yes, I just said we – Star Wars fans – deserve something… like we don’t get enough already. Oh well.
- Thrawn using triangulation to find Atollon – really? After all that buildup that’s how he’s gonna find the Rebel base? Damn, missed opportunity there. I was really thinking we would get some masterful deduction there, but nope, just lines. Oh well, again, nothing too major.
Overall, a solid if not mind-blowing wrap up to season three. I’m very excited for season four, but the stakes have to continue to rise. What are the fates of Kanan and Ezra going to be? As we inch closer and closer to the events of Rogue One and A New Hope, we are going to start to lose some of our beloved heroes, right? Please say yes. In the meantime, check the podcast we did yesterday and watch Rebels Recon below (and stay until the end for a cool piece of concept art). And don’t worry I’m not done with Rebels, I’m actually working on finalizing a Canon Casting for the show up until this point, no small feat mind you. Stay tuned for that in the coming weeks!